Dear Mr. Stewart,
We, Living Rent members and supporters, are writing to you in your capacity as Scottish Government Minister for Local Government, Housing and Planning.
In these threatening times, we have seen a range of responses by Registered Social Landlords, whether as landlords or factors, to exercising the appropriate duty of care for their tenants and homeowners, in light of COVID-19. In many places, cleaning services have been reduced or removed entirely, rather than, as urgently needed, reinforced.
We are writing to you to ask that you urgently legislate on the following demands and mandate RSLs to maintain appropriate levels of communal hygiene across their schemes and in their blocks. By its very nature, social housing is home to a high number of vulnerable and elderly tenants. Given the high concentration of social housing in some areas, the urgency and expediency of an immediate resolution to this matter cannot be overstressed.
We regard these provisions as the absolute minimum that RSLs should be legally held to in light of the public health crisis created by the COVID-19 pandemic: in currently failing to provide them, RSLs are breaching the duty care required of them.
Finally, we draw your attention to Professor Antony Costello’s evidence, given to the House of Commons Health Select Committee on 17/04/2020. Prof. Cosetello stated that in this first wave of COVID-19 the UK can expect to see ‘40,000 deaths’, and will ‘face further waves’. In light of this testimony we cannot stress enough the vital importance of RSLs being legally mandated to maintain the highest possible levels of communal hygiene, protecting Scottish social and council tenants from preventable suffering and death.
- Daily deep-cleaning of communal areas every two hours (as committed to by Cube Housing and the GHA) including lifts in multi-storey blocks. This must include floors, doors, walls, handrails, lift and door buttons, and anything else that it could reasonably have been touched by anyone.
- Provision of hand sanitiser in all communal areas together with sanitising cleaning wipes, both of which should be regularly topped-up.
- Ensure all staff tasked with cleaning are provided with the proper PPE - FFP3 masks and gloves, with a sufficient supply to be changed as required and sufficient on-site provision for staff to be able to safely change and dispose of potentially contaminated workplace clothing; staff should not be expected to take potentially contaminated workplace clothing back into their homes.
- Community information campaigns including, but not limited to, and displayed in all blocks: strong '1 in the lift' advice; clear guidance on social distancing and the importance of following personal protective behaviours; display of contact details for tenant union reps, councillors, MSPs, local community organisations; and deep cleaning schedules.
- These extra provisions must not be paid for by tenants, or used to retrospectively justify increased rents.
We look forward to your answer to our demands,